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One in seven people with diabetes in the South West discriminated against at work.

One third say that the condition causes them difficulty on the job

Research from Diabetes UK has found that one in seven (15 percent) people with diabetes currently in work in the South West, feel that they’ve been discriminated against by their employer because of their condition.

The survey also found that more than one third (35 percent) of respondents said that living with diabetes had caused them difficulty at work, while 9 percent had not told their employer that they have the condition. Around a quarter (25 percent) said that they would like time off work for diabetes-related appointments and 26 percent said that flexibility to take regular breaks for testing their blood sugar or to take medication.

Diabetes UK hopes that the survey will start a conversation about long-term health conditions in the workplace. Managing diabetes can involve taking medication – including injecting insulin at the right time – and for some people testing blood glucose levels multiple times a day.

To prevent the onset of serious complications there are vital checks that everyone with diabetes should be getting which can require time off work. Employers can only help if they are aware that someone has diabetes and what it means both day-to-day and in the long run.

Helen Dickens, Assistant Director of Campaigns and Mobilisation at Diabetes UK, said:

“Thousands of people across the UK have spoken out about how a lack of understanding from their employers can make working with diabetes not just exhausting and stressful, but also potentially life-threatening. We heard from people who had to give up their jobs in order to manage their condition safely.

“Diabetes is one of the largest health crises of our time affecting more than 2.2 million people of working age in the UK. Missing essential health checks or not taking medication on time can lead to devastating complications, such as amputations, stroke, heart disease, kidney failure and even early death.

“Discrimination and difficulties come about because employers lack knowledge about diabetes and do not understand its impact. We need to talk more about the condition and the many ways it affects people’s lives in order to persuade workplaces to offer greater understanding and flexibility. Everyone deserves to work in an environment where they can ask for the support they need.”

Justine from Worcestershire gave up one job as a manager in the Marketing industry after six months because her boss made her feel uncomfortable about her condition.

Justine said: “I was only a year into my diagnosis and still getting used to managing insulin doses and finding my feet with Type 1 diabetes. My manager had no understanding about diabetes and made it quite an event, announcing to the office − ‘You’ve got the bad one, haven’t you?’ I felt ostracised by the people I worked with and also felt I had been singled out because of my Type 1 diabetes and so every activity was scrutinised, it felt very much like I didn’t fit and wasn’t wanted.”

Justine also felt that her diabetes caused other problems at work. She added: “Because of the nature of my work I was in meetings a lot and if they ran over and I hadn’t got my insulin dose calculation right then I would end up having a hypo. This meant I had to retreat to the bathroom so I could treat my hypo with sweets. As I was only a year in after first being diagnosed, I was still in a period of adjustment and self-conscious about doing a blood test or injection in front of anyone, so I was going to the bathroom a lot to test and take my medication as well.”

Often people with diabetes do not think of themselves as having a disability, but in many cases, they will be covered by the definition of disability in the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act defines a disability as a ‘physical or mental impairment that has a substantial long-term negative effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’ When asking whether the condition fits the definition it is the effect of untreated diabetes and the impact on each individual that should be considered, particularly if they have developed complications.

To find out more about your rights at work if you have diabetes or for information about supporting people with diabetes in the workplace if you are an employer visit www.diabetes.org.uk/work